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Ezra - Big Smiley Sun CD (album) cover

BIG SMILEY SUN

Ezra

 

Neo-Prog

3.30 | 21 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Ezra are really a throwback band to the eighties, but not the bad kind of eighties music like Depeche Mode or something. Although sometimes they sure sound like Depeche Mode, or maybe Icehouse without the meds or something. I’m not exactly sure what makes them sound this way, but the male vocals are partly responsible for sure, and probably the fat and bouncy bass line. And lots of rhythm. But as near as I can tell they are a bunch of middle-aged guys who seem to make something of a living playing classic rock type gigs around the UK. I’m guessing most of them have day jobs.

According to the band’s web site there are only twenty copies of this CD left for sale, so jump right on that if you’re interested. I got mine as an Amazon import, so I don’t think that counts against the twenty. Or maybe it does – get one today just to be safe.

This is also a rather deceptive album. The cover shows a Klaatu-like smiling sun (hence the album’s title), and the bouncy rhythms and upbeat guitar makes this sound like a peppy, Welsh, and male Katrina & the Waves or Martha & the Muffins or someone like that (hey – two more well-placed eighties references!). But the lyrics are a different story. These are mostly kind of depressing, with topics generally along the lines of depression, loneliness, disgust with the bustle and distance of modern life, and just angst in general. It’s really hard to take these sentiments too seriously though since the music mostly belies the words.

The band is a trio – drums, guitars, and bass, although Robert Reed adds some Hammond including a lengthy solo (not Robert Reed the sci-fi writer though – he’s dead). And according to the inside liner notes there’s some guy who plays a didgeridoo, but I can’t quite make out where. They apparently add another guitarist and some background singers when performing live, but here the vocals are pretty much just guitarist Andy Edwards.

The opening “Under the Bed” is a boogey-man story, just in case you didn’t get that from the title. “Nobody Loves Me” should be self-explanatory, and the title track seems to be the perfect anthem for this contradictory bunch: crooning about a big smiling sun while lamenting their miserable lives beneath it. This one also has the most prominent ‘big eighties’ sound on the album.

“Waiting for the Day” is another tune whose title pretty much sums up the meaning of the lyrics; and “Blinding Line” is almost a dirge: “It’s best I’m alone sitting here on my own; I’ll destroy myself if I somehow don’t get away”. What a downer. More of the same with “Six Degrees of Separation”, and by the time “Alone” rolls around you pretty much know what to expect.

As near as I can tell the prog label must come from the closing and longest track “Ming Thing”, a rambling sometimes post-rock, sometimes psych, and occasionally acoustic eleven-minute work that has no real point that I can discern, but certainly wouldn’t sound out-of-place alongside Porcupine Tree and someone like Carptree on a compilation CD for your car stereo. In fact I think I’ll put something like that together.

There’s nothing particularly spectacular here, but the overall vibe is pretty good and the album is consistent with a steady pace. Not prog really, and certainly not neo-prog. I’d put them somewhere closer to dredg or Super Furry Animals. If you’re into that kind of thing you will more than likely find these guys appealing, and I recommend picking this up because these are the kind of bands that you feel good about supporting. Not recommended for prog purists though - you guys will almost definitely find these guys way too mainstream. Three stars.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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